The study focuses on a particular protein found in neurons in the brain, known as a potassium channel, which stabilises and regulates the voltage across the membrane of the neuron. Communication between the millions of neurons in the brain – which is the basis of human consciousness and perception, including perception of pain - involves neurons sending nerve impulses to other neurons. In order for this to happen, the stabilising action of the potassium channel has to be overcome. Earlier studies on great pond snails by the same team identified that anaesthetics seemed to selectively enhance the regulating action of the potassium channel, preventing the neuron from firing at all – meaning the neuron was effectively anaesthetised.
The new research has identified a specific amino acid in the potassium channel which, when mutated, blocks anaesthetic activation. Lead author, Biophysics Professor Nick Franks from Imperial College London, explains how this will allow the importance of the potassium channel in anaesthetic action to be established:
“We’ve known for over 20 years now that these potassium channels in the human brain may be important anaesthetic targets. However, until now, we’ve had no direct way to test this idea. Because a single mutation can block the effects of anaesthetics on this potassium channel without affecting it in any other way, it could be introduced into mice to see if they also become insensitive to anaesthetics. If they do, then this establishes the channel as a key target.”
The group carried out their new study, published in the 20 July issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, by cloning the potassium channel from a great pond snail and then making a series of chimeric channels – part snail and part human. The chimeras were used to identify the location of the precise amino acid to which the anaesthetic binds on the potassium channel, giving the team a clearer picture than ever before of the precise mechanism by which anaesthetics work.
This kind of research, explains Professor Franks, is important because understanding exactly how anaesthetics work may pave the way for the development of a new generation of anaesthetics which solely affect specific anaesthetic targets, which could potentially reduce the risks and side effects associated with current anaesthetics.
“At the moment, anaesthetics have many unwanted side-effects on the human body such as nausea and effects on the heart. This is because our current drugs are relatively non-selective and bind to several different targets in the body. A better understanding of how anaesthetics exert their desirable effects could lead to much more specific, targeted alternatives being developed, which could greatly reduce these problems,” he said.
Danielle Reeves | alfa
New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Disarray in the brain
18.12.2017 | Universität zu Lübeck
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
22.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
22.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.01.2018 | Life Sciences